Skip to Main Content
University of York Library
Library Subject Guides

A practical guide to presentations

Delivering a presentation

A look at designing and delivering presentations, in person and online.

How do you deliver a presentation? Here we take a look at some presenting tips, including some practical advice for presenting with slides and for presenting online. We also consider polling tools, and how to share a copy of your presentation with your audience.

Presenting tips

Some practical suggestions

Here's a few bits of practical advice for presenting:


Use the mic!

If there's a microphone there, use it. You might be able to project to the back of the room beautifully, but don't presume you know the hearing needs of your audience, and don't assume that asking if people mind you not using the microphone is going to elicit a meaningful response. Just use the blummin' microphone: it might feel like a bit of a faff, but it's there for a reason!


Scope out the room beforehand

If you're able, get an idea of the room you're presenting in, and the equipment available. You can find out the details about a teaching room at York on the Teaching Room Information page.

The size of the room, and the number of people you're presenting to, will have an effect on how you deliver the session and how interactive you can be.


Present with a laptop

The lectern PCs on campus are not as young as they once were. If you've got a laptop it might well be more powerful. What's more, with a laptop you will be able to use Presenter view, which will give you much more control over your presentation.


Run the slides through before your audience arrive

If you can, test your slides, or anything else you plan to use, in the room. That way you can be sure they'll run as you expect them to (PowerPoint will also cache any videos or animations on its first run through, which may make effects run smoother for the show proper).


Take a deep breath before you speak

Honestly, it will help.


Don't read the slide

If there's more than a few words on your slide, avoid the temptation to read it verbatim. Talk around the points. Add to them. If your presentation is just you reading the wall, you could just have sent the slide-deck to your audience and saved everyone the trip.


Avoid using a script

Reading out loud is hard to do well. So avoid using a script too. Make notes, by all means, but consider how you'll navigate those notes: you don't want to lose your place. One helpful method is to use small pages such as index cards, or to only write on the top third of a page.

And if you're working with notes, don't limit them to the words you're saying. Throw in some stage directions too. That way you might be more likely to remember to breathe!


Don't memorise every word

A presentation is a performance of sorts, but it isn't a play. It's better to be able to understand your topic and talk freely around it than to understand a script. If you get distracted from a script (for instance by a question) you'll be in trouble and you might have difficulty picking up the thread again.


Practice. Out loud. Like you mean it!

Practicing in your head won't give you a true idea of how your presentation will go, or how long it will last. You kind of have to do it for real. It's also helpful (if a little embarrassing too) to practice in front of a friend.


Shave off 10%

It's better to have more time to play with than to cram in too much and run over or rush the last bit. If your presentation is too long for the time, drop something. If you're delivering and you're running out of time, drop something mid-presentation. Have a note of your slide numbers so that you can skip to a section without clicking through slides you've no intention of talking to.


Get a clicker

If you're not likely to be doing many presentations then don't get a clicker, but if you find yourself in a position where you're doing a lot of presentations (or if you know someone who's got a clicker you can borrow) get yourself a clicker: it will liberate you from the lectern and you'll be able to wander about a bit more.

Even if you've not got a clicker, you should still feel able to leave the keyboard now and again (microphones allowing). Get out there and make use of the 'stage'; gesture at your lovely slides. Feel the love of your enthralled audience!


Address the audience

Face the people you're presenting to, and avoid talking to the wall your slides are being projected on. If you're presenting online, make sure your microphone is in the same direction as your screen.


The audience are on your side

No, really. Look them in the eye. At least one member of your audience will be demonstrably supportive. Find the most supportive looking audience member and keep looking back at them. Breathe in their happy smile and their nods.


Don't criticise yourself during the presentation

You know you've made a mistake, but your audience might not have clocked it. Unless you tell them. So don't tell them. Keep your mistakes to yourself.


Enjoy it

Ok, maybe that's easier said than done, but step back and unleash the performer buried deep within.


Share the slides

Your slides can be your calling card. So maybe put them online somewhere where your audience can revisit them.

When sharing materials after a session, they don't need to be the same deck you're presenting with. Maybe you could include some extra slides that expand upon the original summary content (and may even expand on what you said in the presentation). Or at the very least you could add some explanatory notes in the notes field.

Annoying things to perhaps avoid

Here's some suggestions from Twitter of the most annoying things presenters do...


The classics

  • “Put an essay on each slide and READ IT ALL. VERY SLOWLY.”
  • “Read from a script.”
  • “Going overtime.”
  • “cram too much in, and then say ...erm... I'll just skip over these slides.... usually the more interesting ones at the end”

The insightful

  • “Speaking away from the mic.”
  • “Try to fit 60 minutes of material into 25 minutes presenting time.”
  • “Ignore audience signals”

The unwelcome participatory

  • “Attempting to get me to stand up and engage in participation without first winning my cooperation?”
  • “Make me play a game.”

The bizarre

  • “Not wear shoes.”
  • “Swirl each word with a laser pointer as they say it.”
  • “jangling the loose change in their pockets. A least I hope that's what they're doing......”

Presenting your slides

Presenter view

If you're using a computer with a dual monitor setup (or if you're hooking up a laptop to the projector) you can use Presenter View when presenting. This gives you a lot more control over your presentation.

With Presenter View enabled, the presentation happens on one screen (usually the big one that the audience can see), while the other screen shows a control console which will include things like slide notes and a preview of the next slide in the deck.

Before you can use Presenter View, you'll need to have two screens connected to your computer. In your computer's display settings, make sure that you're using an extended display so that the two screens are able to carry different content.


PowerPoint

The controls for transitions are all found on the Transitions tab:

  1. To enable Presenter View, choose Slide Show > Monitors > Use Presenter View
  2. Select the monitor to be used for the show (Slide Show > Monitors > Monitor)
  3. When the presentation is run, the presenter’s screen shows controls to help navigate the presentation:
    The Presenter View shows the current slide, next slide, and notes. There's also a selection of useful tools.

Tools in the Presenter View include annotation options, zoom, captions, and a handy slide picker mode.

Another benefit of Presenter View is that you can switch back to your slide deck on the presenter screen and make changes to your slides without having to escape the presentation on the audience screen. This is handy if you've made a mistake, or if you want to add things to future slides based on things that have come up in the presentation.

Google Slides

You can present using Presenter View in Google Slides by going to the drop-down toggle at the side of the Present button and choosing Presenter view.

Google Slides' version of Presenter View is a bit more basic than PowerPoint's. But you get previews of the previous and next slides, as well as sight of your notes. There's also a dropdown slide picker for if you want to skip to elsewhere in the presentation.


Audience Q&A

Google's Presenter View includes a Question & Answer feature under the AUDIENCE TOOLS tab. Audience members can follow a link to submit questions which can then be moderated and displayed on screen.

  1. From the AUDIENCE TOOLS tab, choose Start new;
    The Presenter View shows the current slide, previous slide and next slide, plus submitted questions from the audience. There's also a selection of useful tools.
  2. By default the Q&A requires your audience to log in as members of the University of York, but you can use the dropdown at the top of the page to open the link up to anyone;
  3. When the Q&A toggle is switched to ON, the URL for the submission page is displayed at the top of your slides. You can use the toggle to turn this off when not needed;
  4. The audience can ask their question with their Google identity showing, or anonymously; other audience members can upvote or downvote questions;
  5. To present a question on the main screen, choose PRESENT.

Even if you've not got a set-up that will allow you to use Presenter View, there's still some in-vision presenter tools that appear in the bottom left of the screen when you hover over a slide.

Keyboard shortcuts

Here's some useful keyboard shortcuts for use when presenting:


Advancing the slides

To step forward through the slides (and any animations) you can mouse-click, mouse-wheel backwards, or press N, Enter, Page Down, the right arrow cursor, the down arrow cursor, or the space bar.

To step backwards, you've got the choice of mouse-wheeling forwards, or pressing P, Page Up, the left arrow cursor, the up arrow cursor, or the Backspace.


Navigating to elsewhere in your presentation

To skip to a specific slide, enter the slide number then press Enter

You can also use Home and End to skip to the beginning or end of your presentation.


Clearing the screen

B will make your screen go black. W will make your screen go white. Pressing them again will bring your slides back.

Live subtitling

Both programs are able to generate live captions for your presentation. As with any live captioning, the quality of these subtitles may vary...

PowerPoint

Subtitling options can be found at Slide Show > Captions & Subtitles, or can be enabled from the on-screen controls when presenting.

Google Slides

Live subtitles can be activated from the Captions icon: one of the on-screen controls when presenting. You will need to enable access to your microphone.

PowerPointCustom shows

If you need to give similar presentations to different audiences, instead of creating multiple presentations, PowerPoint lets you generate custom shows. Each show can use a different selection of slides from the same presentation.


Creating custom shows

  1. Choose Slide Show > Start Slide Show > Custom Slide Show > Custom Shows… — a dialogue box will open;
  2. Choose New… to create the first show, and Add the slides you want in the sequence required;
  3. Give the show a suitable name and select OK to finish;
  4. Repeat this process for each show required — they will appear in the Custom Shows dialogue when you return;
  5. If you need to edit a show, choose Edit...;
  6. When done, choose Close.

Presenting with a custom show

Once you've created a custom show, it will appear on the Custom Slide Show dropdown. Select the show you want and it will run.

PowerPointExport options

PowerPoint has a range of export options. Most of these can be accessed via File > Export. Here's a few examples:


PDF

Saving as a PDF is useful if you've got an elaborate slide deck that is large in terms of file-size, and which is liable to display inconsistently on other machine (for example because of access to special fonts). PDF is a print format so it isn't the most user friendly in terms of display-based reading, but nor, in some ways, is a PowerPoint deck.


Video

You can export your slideshow as a video, which is particularly useful if you've got narrations in place. If you're sharing the video, you may want to adjust the quality settings to create a file that's of a reasonable size. Or you could always produce something at a high quality and then upload it to YouTube or Google Drive.

In the latest versions of PowerPoint you can also export slides as an animated GIF (the GIFs on this guide were done via that method).


Handouts

The handout option will export your slides and notes to a Word document. This feature is great if you've got some good notes you want to share, but, annoyingly, often breaks half way through.


Other save options

If you're sharing a PowerPoint file, you may want to create a sharing copy:

  1. Go to File > Save a Copy and choose the "Browse" button to bring up the "Save As" dialogue box;
  2. Under Tools > Save Options... you'll find a setting that lets you Embed fonts in the file: this is handy if you're using non-standard fonts and want to be sure that the slides will display properly on other computers;
  3. Under Tools > Compress Pictures... you can get rid of any bits of images you may have cropped out, and reduce the quality of the images to potentially make your PowerPoint file smaller in terms of file-size.

Audience polling

Getting a show of hands is one thing but sometimes you might want to get a bit more sophisticated in terms of audience polling. As well as traditional survey tools, the University has an institutional licence for Mentimeter which can be used to provide real-time feedback in a presentation setting:

There's also the Q&A tool available in Google Slides:

And if you're presenting online, Zoom has a polling tool built in:

Sharing a presentation

It can be useful to share a copy of the slides with your audience. But there are a few extra things to consider:

Format

Are you actually going to share the same slide deck you're presenting with? Sure, with Google Slides, that's straightforward, but with PowerPoint it's a lot more complicated: PowerPoint files can be big, and big files are difficult to share. You might be better off exporting your slides to a different format like a PDF or a handout.

Even with Google Slides, you've the choice of sharing the deck itself (albeit probably just with View access) or using the File > Publish to the web option which creates a presentation frame like the one above.

Accessibility

Designing for a screen has plenty of accessibility considerations, but if you're also going to be sharing your slides, there are other aspects of accessible design that you'll need to consider: in particular, images will need alternative text, and you'll need to ensure that slide content follows the intended reading order.

Alternative versions

If you're sharing your deck in advance, it's going to be full of spoilers. Are there bits you want to hold back from your audience? Do you actually need to share a special 'sharing' deck?

Likewise, elaborate slides can be a pain to make accessible, so a simplified version might be used in the shared deck. This might also help to keep the filesize of the deck down. And you can reduce the image quality in PowerPoint's save settings, and jettison any unused parts of images — things you might not want to do with your master copy.

Presenting online

Presenting online comes with its own set of challenges. Here's some general advice:

Enable live captions

If you're presenting in Zoom, be sure to sign in with your University account to get some extra features. One such feature is auto-transcription whereby the host can enable live captioning (Live Transcript > Live Transcript > Enable Auto-Transcription). It's the new "always use the mic!"

Ease off on the effects

Unless you tweak the settings, the frame-rate (the number of pictures being sent down the line in any given second) is quite low for a virtual meeting, which can make animation and transitions look jerky. And even if your connection is amazing, other people's bandwidth might not be so broad: they might be trying to watch on a poor connection, so having a clear slide becomes very important.

It's tiring

Looking at a screen is harder work than looking at you in real life. So be prepared to offer your audience (and yourself) a break or two. Think even harder about the structure of your presentation and how you can break things up or otherwise keep people's attention.

Performing in a vacuum

You'll probably want your audience muted while you're talking, because background noise is distracting. And while it might be nice to be able to see people's video, that's adding to the bandwidth load, so it may be more efficient (and less distracting) to have people turn their cameras off too. But this leaves you performing to, well, nothing much at all. It's hard to judge how your talk is going down; and you don't have that kind face to focus on. So maybe find a supportive friend closer to home: a stuffed toy, maybe... something with eyes that you can focus on: a proxy audience positioned close to your webcam. It can be surprisingly effective, and can help alleviate the sense that you're just talking to a brick wall (when you're emphatically not).

If you're able to do so, present with another person. It builds up the sense of an audience, and it livens things up a bit for the viewer too. Having two people makes it easier to field questions too, and if one of you has connection problems, the other can provide cover.

Play with the kit

Things like Zoom have loads of tools built into them like live captioning, breakout rooms and polling. Try them out with some colleagues to get the hang of them. The chat window is really useful as a way of getting people to ask questions as they think of them, without interrupting the flow of the session.

Prepare your desktop accordingly

Your computer screen is your classroom. If you're leaving the slides in order to do anything else (a virtual whiteboard, an online demonstration, or whatever), make sure you have everything you need ready (and that you don't have anything on your desktop you wouldn't want to share). Give similar thought to your physical surroundings, but don't get too hung up on that if the main content of your session is the slides.

Share the materials

Rather than having to just watch the slides via video chat, your audience might also find it helpful to follow along with a local copy of the slide deck. This might mean they could spoil themselves by looking ahead to later slides, but it also means they have a clear, accessible, user-friendly version: when connections might be unstable, it's useful to have an alternative to look at.

Don't panic!

Technology breaks, connections become unstable. There are a lot of variables at play with an online presentation, and the chances of something going wrong are high to the point of being normal: it's an online presentation so of course it won't all go according to plan (even a face-to-face presentation seldom goes smoothly, after all). It's easier to say "don't worry" than it is to not worry, but try to stay as calm as you can and hopefully whatever problem is arising will be something you or someone else in the chat can resolve.

Zoom

Zoom is the recommended video conferencing tool here at York. It can be accessed via a web browser, mobile app, or desktop app. The browser experience allows multiple users to communicate via video, audio, or live-chat, screen-share, and share control of a shared screen. The desktop app contains a number of additional features, such as virtual whiteboards, breakout rooms and custom backgrounds.


When using Zoom, you'll need to make sure you are signed in with your University of York account.

Below you'll find some links to further support using Zoom. Our Zoom Wiki (requires UoY login) covers a range of support topics from scheduling and securing your meeting to using Zoom for teaching and managing Zoom recording.

Google Meet

Google Meet is a video communication service available as part of our Google Workspace. It allows multiple users to communicate via video, audio, or live-chat, and to screen-share.

Like a lot of Google applications, it's gone through various names, so you might catch us calling it 'Hangouts' or 'Hangouts Meet' in places.

Meet vs Zoom

The University has two main meeting tools, both of which can be used with Google Calendar. The other tool, Zoom, has a lot more features, and a lot more stability (at least when used through the stand-alone app rather than via the browser version). Meet tends to be a lot more resource-heavy, so may cause problems on less powerful computers.

Scheduling and joining a Meet

Some practical considerations:

  • The hardest bit is getting microphones and cameras to work – You may have to wrestle with your browser settings (often an icon will appear in your address bar). You can switch between cameras via the 'More options' kebab menu (⋮) and the 'Settings' "cog" in Meet. Take a look at this video for more help:
  • Mute your microphone if you're not using it. That way your face won't keep appearing every time you cough or fidget.

  • You could use the chat feature for things like agendas, or even for quietly asking for the floor in busier meetings to avoid too much chaos.